Entrance to the fortFort Pulaski was the key to Savannah during the Civil War. General Robert E. Lee had been stationed there earlier and proclaimed the fort unbreachable. Unfortunately for the city, he was wrong. In April 1862, twenty- five-year-old Colonel Charles Olmstead surrendered the fort and with his sword in hand,  he made the historic comment, “I yield my sword. I trust I have not disgraced it.”

 

The fort became a prison for over 500 Confederate officers held there during the bitter cold winter of 1864-65. In retaliation for the treatment of Union prisoners, Confederate prisoners were kept in the most inhumane conditions. The casements were damp and unheated and food was scarce. After the war, Confederate cabinet officers and political prisoners were kept there.

It is only natural that the fort retains a feeling of despair. The prison area and a stairway where a young Confederate defender died are especially psychically charged. The tragic history of the fort explains the presence, so often seen by night time observers, of soldiers marching along the ramparts and through the bushes.

Sentries at fireEach year at Christmas and Fort Pulaski holds an annual candlelight tour. The Christmas party, a reenactment of the Confederate Christmas Nog party originally held in 1861 when the defenders believed the fort impregnable.  The re-enactment is a moving experience. The uniformed re-enactors stand guard at the watch fires. Within, gaiety reigns as antebellum beauties and gallant Confederate soldiers observe Christmas festivities.

Perhaps some of the former prisoners feel right at home during the performance. If you note a soldier that seems too authentic to be a re-enactor, maybe he isn’t a real live person.

fp_groupWhen my husband and I visited, a large group was there for the event. We were met in the visitor’s center by a uniformed Confederate and “checked” to see if any Yankees had infiltrated our group. When he was assured that all of the visitors  were all loyal to the cause, he led us by lantern light back into the fort. It was a step back in time. The fort was decorated as it would have been in 1861. Food and drink sat on the tables, Soldiers and their Southern Bells made merry with music and song. We were served cookies and hot apple cider.

The fort was decorated as it would have been in 1861. Food and drink sat on the tables, Soldiers and their Southern Bells made merry with music and song. We were served cookies and hotapple cider. It was one of the most realistic reenactments I have ever attended.

fp_ladiesFort Pulaski began life as a Revolutionary fort. It saw the most action during the Civil War. One of its live-in dead people is so active he is known by name. He is Private Garrity who suddenly attacked his commanding officer for no apparent reason. The deranged soldier then jumped into the moat and drowned himself. Oddly enough, the water level is rarely over five feet deep.

The officer recovered to live a normal 19th-century life and is no longer hanging around the fort but Garrity is still here. According to an attendant at the fort, Daniel Grisette, “Visitors have frequently seen a man walking across the parade ground then he just disappears. Maybe it’s Private Garrity.

Another strange thing happens with regard to an award given as a joke. Each year, the outstanding re-enactor is given an award called the ‘Garrity Award’. It’s a trophy shaped like a musket. The first year, a piece of the musket broke off. It was later found on the drawbridge. The following year, a different piece of the musket was mysteriously broken off. It, too, was later found on the drawbridge.”

fp_guardAnother story associated with Fort Pulaski occurred when a portion of the movie “Glory” was filmed there. Actors in period uniforms saw a Confederate soldier they at first assumed to be one of their number. The soldier told them to form up and be careful as an attack might occur any time. The actors played along believing the guy was just having fun. Imagine their surprise when they turned around and he had disappeared.

Since Fort Pulaski is a National Park, official paranormal investigations have not been conducted there but many individual investigators have gotten evidence of paranormal activities when they toured. The Virginia Paranormal Society has done a tour but not an official investigation.